The views were astounding. The powder was sweet. That secret camping spot off-trail near a brook was savored. The top of the pass was scrambled to and nothing is seen but an endless vista of mountains.
The trailhead is then reached again. But the trip is not over..it is time to fill the belly, quench the thirst and celebrate the amazing outdoor journey that was just enjoyed.
Here is my biased take on some places to grab a burger and brew after an enjoyable trip.
Others may hike further and faster, do gnarlier climbs and seem to float over the powder like an angel. But when it comes to places that serve beer, I am a true outdoor expert.
This screed is by no means complete, un-biased, authoritative or possibly even factual.
What it IS…well, it’s my take on some favorite watering holes. A place to grab a brew, some wonderful fries and a thick, juicy and scrumptious burger.
I know how to eat. I know how to drink beer. This article covers both of my skill sets.
For now, this list is Colorado based and primarily in the Front Range. I am always up for the challenge of finding new places that I look on fondly for post-trip noshing.
In my current home of Boulder, there are many places to choose from…. A Bike and Brew tour can easily be had along the many bike paths around town. Grab a burger, sample some beer, have a little mead and perhaps even stop by the new 303 tasting room for some tasty vodka-based dessert drinks… all stops accessible on your two-wheel, human powered transportation.
(Requisite legal warning: Colorado has laws about drunk biking…even on bike paths. Had too many “Hazed and Infused” brews? Walk!
There, now I won’t be sued for my 1999 pick-up with manual locks, manual windows and a stick shift, my used and duct taped gear or my equally well used and beat up coffee mug. Both myself and my future wife thank you )
But that’s for in town jaunts. What about post-outdoor trips? Well, speaking of in-town adventures, after our annual tour of the Boulder Open Space my friends and I like to every year, we enjoy hitting the AYCE buffet at the Taj Restaurant. Endless plates of saag, naan, rice, lamb curry and bottomless cups of chai. Oh yeah! Conveniently located at the bottom of the hill from the end of d-low’s favorite hike ever!
However, my tried and true place for post-trip noshing in Boulder is invariably the Southern Sun. SoSun to us lazy locals, the SoSun is a South Boulder locale (SoBo to us lazy locals again) and a more laid back version of the Mountain Sun in downtown Boulder.
The Southern Sun is conveniently located up the road from Eldorado Canyon, just down the road from my favorite local hike, is not far from the Golden area highway exits after some Lost Creek or even Summit County wanderings and is always consistently good.
Grab a Junk Burger (bacon! jalapeno! MEAT!), add some fries (which are often served for free while waiting) and enjoy the goodness that is Java Porter on nitro. Think an efficient, slightly-granola vibe. See hipsters, trustafarians, families and smelly outdoors people all mingled together in one place and enjoying themselves. A true Boulder instituion!
Shamelessly stolen photo of some not-so-shamelessly enjoyed beer.
Speaking of Golden….
After a day of hiking in Golden Gate Canyon State Park , sometimes a craving is had for more than beer and a burger (whaa?). Yes it is true. Sometimes some hummus is craved, some lamb and some cool, refreshing salads. And Golden, CO has a such a place that fills the needs. Like many (most?) good ethnic restaurants, Ali Baba’s Grill is located in a strip mall. Don’t let the cliched name scare you! My good friend Nahum from Israel consistently raves about the hummus, and another acquaintance who grew up in Iran always looked forward to eating there and another friend in the past of Lebanese descent gave it his stamp of approval. Hike in Golden Gate and relax with some yogurt drinks and baba ganoujh over warm pita bread after.
Eggplant. Not just for having red sauce all over it!
Up the road in the town of Nederland (or Ned to us increasingly lazy locals) is the home to Frozen Dead Guy Days, a legendary recording studio , and people who look like they are refugees from a Woodstock (1969) time capsule.
Similar to the Taj, but without the AYCE (at least in the latter part of the day when we arrive) and a Nepalse twist. Add endless cups of chai after being out in the cold old day and a winner is had.
But sometimes the lure of a burger and beer is too hard to pass up. The First Street Pub in the large (ha!) downtown area of Ned serves burgers with a twist. How does a meatloaf burger sound? Comfort food in burger form. Wash down with one of the beers from the small, but just-about-enough-variety of beer. Besides burgers, they server good pasta, salads and items that are a step above your typical bar and grill food.
Doesn’t this logo just scream “Fine Famiy Entertainment” ????
But the baseline for my Favorite. Burger. Of. All. Time. is in Lyons, CO at Oskar Blues.
Whether it is coming back from an off-trail, all day affair in RMNP, carving turns in the deep powder or coming back from an excursion in the nearby mountains, Oskar Blues is the convenient place before heading back to Boulder.
And on this menu, one item in particular always calls to me: The Silo Burger.
This amazing burger is a half-pound beef patty, topped by bacon and pulled-pork. Yes. That’s right. That’s a cow and two forms of pig. Topped with pepper jack cheese, doused with hot sauce and cooked medium rare. The juices flow and drip over the accompanying sweet potato fries (mandatory).
And to wash it all down I drink a pint of Ten-Fiddy (10.5 abv!) that tastes like dark-velvet from the tap or a smoky and scrumptious Old Chub (..or sometimes two pints. Er, make that usually two pints).
In Boulder, people spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to achieve Zen enlightenment.
I have found it for $15 or so. If spending time in the backcountry and then having a burger with three different forms of meat, followed by a delicious beer is not Zen enlightenment, than what the hell is ?!?!?
I’m a simple man. But supposedly the idea of Zen enlightenment is to be simple. I got it nailed…:D
The menu from Oskar Blues is both lighter than this book and offers a tastier selection of food.
Coming back from Summit county or nearby, the mountain town of Idaho Springs offers the always good bet of Tommyknockers. Another brew pub with good pub grub. I’m partial to the Nut Brown beer…. Wait out the I70 traffic, have a burger, a brew and maybe soak in some hot springs after.
Or you can skip Idaho Springs and wait in I70 ski traffic instead:
I’ll stick to the beer, burger and fries.
Speaking of Summit County, there are three Brew Pubs I seem to wind up at:
In the town of Frisco, there is the Backcountry Brewery hike from Copper Mtn to Frisco, have a beer and then take the bus back to your car. Or ski from Breck to Frisco and and end near the brewery as well. Sit on the deck, look at the ridge full of pine bark beetle damaged pines (sigh) , bask in the warm sun after a day of spring skiing and wash down your food of choice with a fine ale.
There is beer at the end of this trail d-low. Honest.
Speaking of Breck(enridge), the Breckenridge Brew Pub is a welcome place after a day of skiing in the backcountry. The Oatmeal Stout is almost a meal in itself after playing in the powder all day. The brewpub has an interesting mix of people back from hitting the slopes, people with Texan accents cheering loudly at Texan Football games and softshell clad backcountry skiers.
The cars to get TO beer is at the end of this trail….
I’d be remiss if I did not mention the Dam Brewery in Dillon. After hiking in or around the Gore Range, this brew pub is conveniently located for post-hike noshing, a mang’, chow down, pigging out, etc etc. etc
But there is a place that always inviting after a hike or backpack. The cooler in the back of my vehicle! What can be more inviting than being out in the backcountry for a weekend or more, changing into some sandals and cotton t-shirt and reaching into a cooler for the scrumptious mix of yeast, barley and hops. Proof that maybe, just maybe, this world is good and just after all.
A tailgate, a cooler, some beer. More Zen enlightenment.
Finally…. These are just small (probably biased, not completely factual and/or slightly misleading) samples of places to quench the thirst, grab some food and reminisce in the great outdoor adventure enjoyed.
Check out Backcountry Pizza in Boulder with 50+ beers on tap and very good pizza (seriously!), Eskes Brew Pub in Taos with its unique green chilli beer, the Chuckwagon near the Grand Teton NP park entrance (best view to eat pancakes and drink coffee ever!), Betrtam’s in Salmon ID with its Belly Buster Burger (everything is bigger on the CDT, including the burgers!) and many many many more places.
A book could be written on post-outdoor eating joints. I’ll try my best to do some thorough research.
And hope I have many more opportunities to do so!